David G. Sarif on Social Media
- What is social media?
- How can social media affect my divorce?
- If I am currently involved in a family law case, is it ok to continue using social networking sites?
- If I choose to continue using these sites even though my case is pending, how should I handle the disbursement of information?
- Ditzel blog posting - Family Law in the Digital Age.
What is social media?
By "social media," we are referring to networking and social websites in which friends, acquaintances and sometimes the general public can view your personal information. For example, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn and the like.
How can social media affect my divorce?
Social media or social networking sites can be a virtual goldmine of information for you and for the adverse party. Almost anyone can access whatever personal information you inadvertently or intentionally decide to make public. Sometimes, disbursement of personal information can have adverse consequences on your family law case. For example, indicating on Facebook that you are "single" during your divorce case can create difficulties with your spouse and raise issues to complicate your divorce. Likewise, information, especially pictures, depicting you as going out at night, consuming alcohol, going to parties, etc. can be detrimental to your case when you are engaged in a custody or other dispute. Of course, you should also be concerned with not only what you post on these sites, but what others may post on your personal social media website.
If I am currently involved in a family law case, is it ok to continue using social networking sites?
We do not recommend the use of these sites during the pendency of your case for many reasons. Most importantly, as described above, information that you or others post or write on these websites can have negative consequences in your family law case. We suggest sending out a mass "tweet", "status" or "message" to your friends on these sites that you are taking a "vacation" from the site and will return shortly. Once the case is finalized, you may always reactivate the account.
If I choose to continue using these sites even though my case is pending, how should I handle the disbursement of information?
If you continue use of these sites, we recommend limiting the content of information that is made public. For example, edit your profile or personal information so that it is very basic. Instead of saying that your interests are "going out on the town" or "Sunday football parties," say "friends" or "sports." If you have pictures online in which you appear to be intoxicated, have them removed immediately. If someone you met out at a club or a bar sends you a friend request on Facebook, ignore the friend request but send the person a message telling them that "it's kind of complicated but you would like to be in touch with them, just not through Facebook or MySpace." If your spouse sees new people of the opposite sex popping up as friends on your Facebook page, it will raise his or her suspicions about what you are doing in your free time. If you are a huge fan of Twitter, refrain from sending out tweets like "I think I'm still drunk from last night" or "I'm about to down some beers and drive to Joe's house" (and of course do not drive after drinking whether you "tweet" or not). The bottom line of course is use your common sense and remember that anything you say or do can and will be used against you by the opposing party.